Forecast Betting Explained

Man at a racetrack putting in his bets

Forecast betting entails making a prediction about which horse, dog or occasionally other participant will finish first, second and sometimes third in any given race or event. In horse and dog racing the odds are usually calculated officially depending on the “to win” odds of the top two and the other runners.

In other sports, such as Formula 1, cycling or athletics, the individual bookmakers often give set odds for the forecast, for example Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton to finish first and second may be quoted as 10/1. A forecast can also be known as a straight forecast or even a Computer Straight Forecast (CSF).

Types of Forecasts

A forecast – by any name – is good when you are very confident of who will win and so you can increase the odds by backing who will finish second too.

Reverse Forecast

If you aren’t so sure which horse (or dog, runner, driver, et cetera) will win but you are convinced you can name the top two then a reverse forecast is the bet for you. This is naming the top two but in either order and is actually two bets combined into one. For example, a £1 reverse forecast on dogs five and six will cost £2 and is effectively £1 on a five-six finish and £1 on six-five.


If you want to go further and pick the top three in an event then a tricast comes into play. This will usually pay out at very handsome odds and involves picking the top three in the correct order. If that sounds a little tricky – and it certainly is – then a combination bet might sound a bit more appealing.

Combination Bets

A combination bet can be done as a forecast or a tricast and involves selecting at least three and up to six horses. A combination tricast with three selections is like a reverse forecast and means you win as long as the three you choose comprise the top three, in any order. To cover all eventualities is six bets, whereas if you want to choose four this will require 24 bets to cover all possible top three combinations. With five picks – hedging your bets now – you will need to place 60 bets, whilst going all out and picking six runners in any possible top three order will require a whopping 120 bets.

As said, you can also do a combination forecast and this works the same way, picking between three and six runners to make up the top two in any order. Because you are only naming the top two there are fewer bets required to cover every eventuality, so for three, four, five and six selections you need six, 12, 20 and 30 bets, respectively.

Forecasts and tricasts and their various forms can be used in a number of ways depending what you go for. A straight tricast is a good bet if you want to use small stakes yet still have a chance of winning big, whilst the various combination bets are good if you want to try some big outsiders and yet still have a great chance of scooping the win.

Calculating Payouts

Calculating Odds Representation

When placing a forecast bet it’s often very difficult to work out the returns of your bet. One thing that you need to note from the off is that it’s not simply a case of multiplying the odds of the winner by that of second place. This is actually how an accumulator bet would work if they were in different races. 

The bookmakers actually use an advanced formula to work out the odds, which in turn, takes into consideration all sorts from the horses starting price, number of horses, results of the horses in the race (notably short proceed favourites) and several other factors. This is commonly known as the Computer Straight Forecast (CSF). 

But, we can run some basic maths to get an idea of how a typical bet might run out. To do this, we are taking a 6 horse handicap race. A handicap race has been designed so that all the horses should theoretically have the same chance of winning by adding weight where needed. Of course, this is never the case and handicappers can never truly predict how each horse is going to run. 

An example of this might be a car that does 0-60 mph in 5 seconds every time. If it’s going head to head with a car that does 0-60mph in 6 seconds every time, then a handicapper will add weight to the faster car in order to slow it down. The same works in horse racing when it comes to these types of races. 

Example of a Forecast Bet

6 Horses Racing - Forecast Betting Example

As we know, we need to predict the horses that will finish both first and second and in the correct order for a straight forecast. Within a race of 6 horses there are 30 different combinations of two of the horses finishing 1st and 2nd. So, for this bet, we would have a 1 in 30 chance of winning the bet or in betting terms, 29/1. 

If we expand on this a little further, we start to look at how the odds change once the first horse has won. So, with six horses in total, picking a winner would be a 1 in 6 chance or 6/1. After the horse has crossed the line, there then are only 5 horses battling it out for second. So, our odds then change again to that of a 5 in 1 chance. Multiply them together and we get 30/1. 

We can then move onto that of the Reverse Forecast, which actually simply works out as half of the forecast odds. So, from the 6 horses we need 2 from the 6 possible to finish first, as we can have them in any order, thus giving us betting odds of 6/2 or 3/1 rounded down. Then, we need 1 from the remaining 5 horses, so this sum stays the same as the original forecast, 5/1. We simply multiply these odds together and we get 15/1. 

Applying Odds to Results

Hopefully, you’ve grasped the basics of how it works from there in terms of theoretical odds, but as you’ll likely know, the bookies always put their own twist on things. As we stated at the start, working out the forecast result isn’t easy prior to the start of the race. It can never be fully worked out until that race has been run and all starting prices and horses have finished. This refers us back to the Computer Straight Forecast, that takes in a lot of information to finally spit out a price.

But, we can offer a little insight as to what price you might be getting, basically just to use as a guide more than anything. You can start by multiply the odds together to get a base, then go back and add on the price for the winning horse, plus 1 unit. Confused? Let’s take a look.

New Castle Race - Example 1

Newcastle Horse Race Example

Here is race taken from Newcastle. Let’s apply our math to see if we get anywhere near the Straight forecast price of £59.60. We take the winners price of 12/1 and multiply this by second place of 4/1. This gives us 48/1. We add on the winners price one more time, giving us 60/1. Not too far away. 

Newmarket Race - Example 2

Newmarket Race Example Forecast Bet

Above is another race from the same day. Again, we multiply 9/1 by 5.50/1 (note, when multiplying, always make sure that it’s the number to 1, so here 11/2 would be 5.50/1, 9/2 would be 4.50/1, etc.). This gives us 49.50/1, then we add on the winner’s price again of 9/1, giving us 58.50. Again, not too far off.

We do want to stress again that this isn’t going to get you the correct odds each time, but it will give a rough idea of your returns prior to the start of the race, which is about all you can ask for when placing these sorts of bets. 

The More Horses, The More Difficult

We wanted to highlight the difficulty of these bets before we finished. Picking a winner of a race or any bet for that matter is hard enough, picking the horses that will finish both 1st and 2nd in the correct order is extremely tough. Our initial example in this article included races with just 6 horses. In reality, most races have much more than this. To give you an idea of how the difficulty increases with more horses, we have formed the table below:

No. of Runners

Possible Forecasts

















But, as ever the optimistic punter, should you land one of these, they can be highly lucrative and are often the source of some of the biggest winners in the industry. 

Forecast vs Exacta

Whilst you should be familiar with Forecast Betting, Exacta betting might be a little alien to you. The concept is just the same in that you need to choose the two horses that are going to finish 1st and 2nd in the correct order.

The concept differs slightly in that the Exacta bet is run by Totepool. These bets, instead of being placed with a traditional bookmaker, are placed into a pool of money with other punters, with any winnings then being divided out from that pool. The winnings can only be calculated by the amount of money that has come in and then the number of people who have been selected, forming the dividend. 

It’s generally thought that the Exacta market offers more value on the whole than that of the traditional Straight forecast bet. This is usually because there are no bookies setting any lines and instead money simply gets divided based on who’s bet what on which horse, almost like a popularity contest. 

The downside is that it is unpredictable, so you are taking a gamble here more than if you were with a traditional bookie. Even though we don’t know the exact payout until after the race, we can, using the formula above, get a general feel of what we will get in return. With Exacta betting, this isn’t going to happen until after the race. 

Example - 6 Races at Newmarket

To give you an idea of how they can fluctuate, we are going to look at 6 races taken from a meeting at Newmarket (Reference: Ex = Exacta, SF = Straight Forecast)

Example Race 1 Newmarket

Example Race 2 Newmarket

Example Race 3 Newmarket

Example Race 4 Newmarket

Example Race 5 Newmarket

Example Race 6 Newmarket

As you can see, for 5 of the 6 races you would have been better off taking the Exacta bet over that of the Straight Forecast, backing up our initial statement that generally, it offers better value. Just from these 6, we are seeing a 3.52% increase in betting on the Exacta over the Straight Forecast or in monetary terms, £8.15 more for every £1 staked. 

Tricast v Trifecta

The Tricast and Trifecta are the same as the Forecast and Exacta, instead for this you need to choose the top 3 selections, just to make it that bit harder. It’s worth noting that for some races, the bookies don’t like to offer tricast bets as much as forecast bets, mainly down to the size of the field. You can generally get Trifecta on all races though, so that’s worth noting. We will switch up the meeting though, just to keep everything feeling fresh and take on a day at the races from Newcastle. 

Example - 5 Races at Newcastle

Betting Breakdown for Race 1 at Newcastle

Betting Breakdown for Race 2 at Newcastle

Betting Breakdown for Race 3 at Newcastle

Betting Breakdown for Race 4 at Newcastle

Betting Breakdown for Race 5 at Newcastle

From these results, we again see that betting with the Tote using the Trifecta markets would see you come out with better value from 4 of the 5 races in total. If you were betting on the Trifecta for all these races and won, you would have received in total £1,457 for every £1 staked. If you were betting with a traditional bookie on the Tricast for the same stake, you would have won £822.15. This is a staggering difference of £634.85 more on the Trifecta market for every £1 staked or as a percentage 77.21% more with the Tote.

It is worth noting that this is a small sample size and whilst the numbers seem alarming, in reality, they are closer. But, the numbers don’t lie and it does highlight that placing these types of bets with the Tote, long term is going to make you more money. 

Other Sports with Forecast Bets

We’ve spoken at length about horse racing with pretty much every example on this page and whilst it is the most popular sport to utilise this bet type, there are others that you can use.

Greyhound Racing

Greyhound Racing Forecast Bets

Greyhound racing is the most obvious other one. It works in much the same way as horse racing with similar principals, so it does make sense that it works with that. In fact, greyhound racing is arguably a better sport to use with these bets as the field size is a consistent 6, making it easier to predict compared with horse racing that include anywhere up to 40 horses for the likes of the Grand National. 


Football Forecast Bets

Next up we have football. The number of markets is limited for football compared to the other sports, but markets such as league winners or even cup winners, where you choose the two finalist, with one the winners and the other the runner-up. In fact, forecast betting when betting on the league is something that a lot of professional punters use as pre-season bets and whilst a bit of fun more than anything, can offer decent returns and aren’t too hard to call. 

Motor Racing

Motor Racing Forecast Bets

Motor racing is another popular sport for the forecast bet and a sport that actually works really well with it. Sports, such as Formula 1, aren’t actually all that competitive and more often than not the winners come from just a handful of teams. This means that even though the field contains 20 drivers, realistically only 4-6 of those drivers are going to be able to win, massively reducing the risk for these bet types. 

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